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Strategies For Mitigating Second Level Digital

Ronald Chikati, Nkosinathi Mpofu

Abstract: Developing countries are massively weighed down by the influence of digital divide. Soon after the world summit on forming millennium goals,
there was a scramble for Information communication Technology (ICT) acquisitions and installations by many countries throughout the world. Coupled
with huge reduction in the prices of the paraphernalia of technology, the concept was well adopted and to some extent well executed by many countries.
In the rush to deal with access (first level) digital divide, most developing countries did not pick it early enough that by arresting one problem, another
one was spawned. Today, it is more than a decade and no convincing evidence is there to show that the national endeavours benefited the majority.
Perhaps efforts are thwarted by the competency (second level) digital divide. It is from this standpoint that we propose strategies for mitigating this new
spectacle of digital divide.

Keywords: digital divide, second level digital divide, capability digital divide, access digital divide

1.0 Introduction
A lot about the access level phase of digital divide has been
written by several authors [1], [2]. The previous work
focussed predominantly on closing the digital gap through
unveiling the information communication technologies
(ICTs) including helping communities with Internet
connectivity. Further researches have also pointed out that
the digital divide gap is a social order that emanates from
disparities and technological access variability between
individuals, communities, schools, countries and regions. At
least at no given time would there be equitable distribution
of technologies among these categories, although of course
the intention has been to minimise rather than to totally
obliterate such digital gaps. For some reasons the rapid
efforts to gap the digital divide has further widened the
digital divide between those who have been using
computers in the past and those who meet computers for
the first time at school, college or the workplace. As a result
the attempt to use ICTs to curb social ills like illiteracy,
poverty and unemployment in most developing countries
remains an elusive dream; some kind of a mouse and a cat
game. The aim of this paper is to propose strategies that
can be adopted to mitigate the second level digital divide.
We will explore the phases of digital divide discussed by
some scholars and then move on to give examples and
suggest recommendations that could be used by many
developing countries to mitigate the second level digital

2.0 Digital divide framework
The work of Wei, et al [3] on conceptualising and testing a
social cognitive model of the digital divide, has established
three levels of digital divide.

2.1 Digital Access Divide
According to the research, the digital access divide is
referred to as the first-level digital divide. In this case, they
maintained that this level of divide is the one that reveals
disparities of ICTs availability among individuals, nations,
regions and or continents. This is to do with lack of or no
physical access to ICTs and technologies like the Internet.
The first level digital divide is what many researchers,
educators and policy-makers have been dealing with in a
bid to make available computers and broadband Internet
connectivity to communities and schools everywhere
globally [6], [7], [8], [9], [2].

2.2 The Capability digital divide
According to Wei, et al, [3], the second level digital divide, is
the capability or competency divide. This type of a divide is
brought about by the access divide. Thus where there are
differentials in the provisioning of the physical ICT
infrastructure to individuals, there is a high probability that
such individuals are not skilled or competent enough to
have optimal usage of the IT infrastructure. This suggests
that there exists a strong positive correlationship between
those who have had early exposure to ICT and the way
they put them to use in future. The research by [4] on the
digital divide and the education value chain indicated that a
disparity in the access and use of ICTs within the education
value chain will result in the differences in the outcomes
between the digitally included and the digitally excluded. In
fact between these dichotomies of users, the digital divide
gap widens with time if no mitigation interventions are cued
in. This view is shared by Wilson, [14] who further noted
that merely having access does not mean that a digital
divide has been solved because a divide remains in the
capacity to effectively use the technology [for example the
Internet]. There is more to digital divide than would physical
access to technology would solve [5]. The concept of
second level digital divide and how to address it is central in
achieving and deriving maximum benefits and opportunities
from the uptake and usage of ICT. The millennium goal of
universal access to ICT for poverty reduction in many
developing countries could then be holistically achieved and
efforts and investments in ICTs by the governments will
begin to redeem positive results.

2.3 The Digital Outcome divide
The third level of digital divide as categorised by [3] is the
digital outcome divide. This level speaks of the inequality of
outcomes of exploiting ICT arising from the capability digital
divide and other contextual factors. For example the quality
of information that one can download from the Internet
depends on the navigation skills set of the Internet user. As
a result differences in web use skills would allow us to
distinguish how different kinds of people are able to take
advantage of the medium [Internet] in varying ways [12].
Unlike Wei, et al, [3], other researchers like DiMaggio and
Hargittai [13] suggested five dimensions along which
divides may exist. However, regardless of the order of the
divides, all the researchers agree that the capability
(competency or Skill) digital divide determines one’s ability
and proficiency to use the medium (ICT) effectively. This
second level of the digital divide is a vital component for
consideration in order to arrest the dilemma of digital divide.
Wilson [14] echoed this sentiment when he argued that we
cannot talk about the Internet's effect on political
participation if a user does not possess the skills to find
political information. Thus the Internet by no means could it
prove to be a useful link between the government and
citizens if people are unable to find official documents
online. This brings us back to the same issue that mere
structural measures of physical access to ICTs alone does
not close the digital divide but this has to be augmented
with skills impartation or at least empowering ICT users with
a coterie of significant ICT skills for the majority of

3.0 It is Capability divide and not Access
Policy makers must have noted by now that as access
increased, other aspects of the digital divide have surfaced,
e.g., computer literacy, health literacy, and mismatch
between desired and available e-health services. Providing
ICT equipment to schools or teachers will not make a
difference (BERA). In 2005, we visited some electrified rural
school in Zimbabwe and as of that time, the school had just
acquired computers for the school. Some of the computers
had come to the school as a generous donation from the
government to address the digital divide between urban
schools and rural schools while others were donated by the
former students (alumni) of the school. What saddened us
was to see a computer laboratory with computers covered
from dust with cloth materials. Our inquiry revealed that the
school had no competent computer teacher and access to
the lab by students was prohibited. Furthermore, our
research in Botswana [5] also indicated that most of the
public schools with computers by 2009, they had one or no
skilled computer teacher and as a result no meaningful
computing skills were imparted to the pupils who were
mostly allocated one (1) hour period per week to use the
computers. These typical examples are just the tip of an
iceberg when you compare the gap between access level
digital divide and the capability-second level digital divide.
Probably, there are many similar cases out there in most of
the developing countries. It must be stated in uncertain
terms that digital divide has now largely shifted from access
to computers or ICTs acquisition to the second divide:
between those people who are lost in the digital
environment and those who have the skills to navigate
efficiently and effectively through all the information now
available to them through digital technologies. It is up to us
– concerned policy makers, educators and parents – to
ensure that our children are not left behind on the analog
side of the digital divide [15]

4.0 Mitigating Capability Divide
As lofty buildings were built brick by brick, so should be the
implementation of an ICT skills action plan if developing
countries are to create a sustainably productive ICT
initiative. The problem could be better addressed using a
bottom-up approach. This would entail training pupils from
kindergarten and supporting them up to tertiary level of
education and then migrate the effort to the workplaces.
4.1 Computers to be introduced early in schools
Since most of the factors that result in second level digital
divide originate from the access divide, adoption of
concepts like the one laptop per child (OLPC). Just like the
origin OLPC concept that aimed at developing low-cost
computers meant for children, there is need for a
government to be in league with manufacturers of low cost
computers for children. For instance the Aakash tablet was
sold in India at a relative low cost of $35 to enhance
computer awareness to pupils. Such laptops or tablets must
be able to run applications like games, maths, puzzles,
language and spelling and to support simple search
facilities be it of simple words or geographical locations.
Such an exposure could develop inert ICT skills in the
pupils; skills that would be fully developed later.

4.2 Train the trainer
One major hurdle faced by most developing nations is
having the skilled personnel to impart the right ICT skills to
the learners. Up to today, ICTs are still regarded as a luxury
[3]. It takes a fully committed government to first change
people’s mind-set. One way of doing this is to initiate
programmes like train the trainer, in which case ICT
professionals are called in to train personnel who are
supposed to champion ICT skill delivery to new learners. All
student teachers in training colleges may learn
fundamentals of ICT skills as part of their training. By the
time they graduate, these teachers are able to teach
computer/ICT basics. Such an approach requires an
overhaul of the teacher training curriculum to infuse
learning of information technology. This approach would
empower every teacher and this is one sustainable
approach to ensure proper ICT skills impartation in schools.

4.3 Adopt a School strategy
Botswana has come up with an innovative initiative that
could be adopted by many developing countries in their bid
to bridge the self-efficacy divide. This strategy is the
ministry of education initiative that looks for partnerships
with individuals, private companies, non-governmental
organisation (NGOs) in assisting schools as a way of
supporting classroom instruction. Generally the business
community could partner with government, to furnish
schools with computers, laboratories, maintenance of
buildings, provision of air conditioning, paving of sporting
grounds and provision of transport especially to villages
such as Satau, Parakarungu and Pandamatenga (Venson-
Moitoi cited in [16]). With regard to the sharing of ICT skills
with the early adopters, this broad concept has seen tertiary
graduates with Information Technology, computer science,
library Information science and computer electronics and
engineering qualifications volunteering to mentor
youngsters at primary and secondary schools. Pupils are
taught various skills like web development, database
design, working with spreadsheets, word processing,
presentations, internet usage and so on. In Botswana, only
urban and peri-urban schools have benefited from this
project. If the initiative is well-formalised it could serve as a
temporary and permanent solution to the ICT skills shortage
experienced by many developing nations. Most of
graduates with IT-related qualifications with a little help from
the government to sustain their upkeep and sustain their
travel expenses could bring massive revolution in the
uptake and assimilation of ICT skills in the schools.

4.4 Aligning ICT to Individual choices
Another important area that needs a thorough scrutiny is
how to align ICTs to the needs of different individuals,
organisations or communities. ICTs are not only limited to
the use of computers but rather there are several kinds of
ICTs from which individuals must have some kind of
informed choices to make. The government or policy
makers must enable all individuals to make informed and
empowered choices about the uses of ICTs whilst ensuring
these individuals have ready access to the resources
required to enable them to act on these choices [10]. With
more nomadic ICT users and the high prevalence of the
mobile phones today, alongside the basic skills of
numeracy and literacy, individuals are required to develop
different forms of information and technological literacies
[10]. In the light of this discussion, we argue therefore that
when it comes to ICT policy implementation, an all-
stakeholder engagement is desirable and such noble
undertakings must not be thrust on people for political
manipulation to gain votes. Many African governments have
come up with different forms of ICT donations to gain favour
of the electorate and this only happens during the
campaigning periods. This means the whole project is
misdirected and just as anyone would guess right, a total
disaster. Such wrong agendas have always magnified
failure rate statistics of many a government projects. There
is need to consider how skills will be disseminated, social
and technical support with respect to hardware and
software, maintenance and relevance of content and
accessibility of services. All these issues and many more
must be oriented to individual needs, otherwise the full
potential of ICTs will never be realised.

4.5 Promote ICT related courses at tertiary level
In the 21
century and beyond, human capacity building in
ICTs is to be seen as a way of empowering the country’s
people. This will stimulate participation by all and sundry at
community, provincial, national, regional and global scale.
This may also enable people to access easily health
services, e-government services, agricultural information as
well as promoting Small, Medium and Micro-Enterprises
(SMMEs) while taking into account relevant market and
cultural contexts. This holistic approach will pay dividends if
and only if ICT skills are packaged in a manner that will
benefit the greatest majority. Thus promotion of ICT related
courses must be a catalytic exercise that must be
advocated for by the policy makers, educators, government,
public and private sectors and the parents. Tertiary
institutions must not make it difficult for students to enrol in
computer science, Information science and engineering
programmes since these are fields equip most students
with higher order ICT skills. This means Universities;
vocational colleges must introduce courses in IT related
areas to benefit most of the people. At the same time these
tertiary institutions must reduce and relax programme entry
requirements to encourage many students to attain ICT
skills needed for the 21st century economies. This strategy
is handy in that the present generation use laptops, pagers,
instant messaging, the Internet, blogs, social networks-
twitter, Facebook, podcast, webinars, teleconference and
the like. Ideally every aspect of their lives is affected or
dictated by ICTs. Life today is different from yesterdays.

4.6 Catering for the people with special needs
The mantra about universal access to ICTs can only be
achieved if digital inclusivity takes centre stage. Politicians
like policy makers must ensure that ICT infrastructure is put
in place to benefit the visually impaired, those with hearing
challenges, the physically challenged, senior citizens, girls
and the marginalised groups. (Mechanisms et al. [11]
advocates for building ICT capacity for all and ensuring
confidence in the use of ICTs by all including the youth, old,
indigenous peoples, and women, remote and rural
communities. ICT skills must be packaged in a customised
way to fit the intended consumers. This calls for a collective
effort by all stakeholders together with professional with
different ICT expertise to champion such programmes.

4.7 Import Scarce ICT skills
In developing countries where ICT skills remain a challenge
that cannot be solved through internal skills supply base,
there is need to import such scarce skills from other
countries. The migrants could be ICT teachers, Lecturers,
network engineers, software developers,
telecommunication engineers and many more ICT technical
professionals. Countries could lower their visa and entry
requirements for people with such ICT skills so that many
such professionals are attracted to migrate to these
countries. Such an exercise will benefit many people
through cross-fertilisation of ICT skills and could result in
new and innovative ways of using ICTs. The ultimate
outcome could be more active economic participation by
the citizenry and high economic productivity.

5.0 Recommendations and Conclusion
Today we are all living witnesses of a runaway world of
ever-changing technology; a world in which every facet of
life is dictated by technology. In such a world, developing
world must geared up their game by first realising that
digital divide does not only imply disparities in universal
access to ICTs (first level digital divide) but that there has
been an emergence of the second level digital divide that
has shown conspicuous gaps in ICT usage capability
differentials among people with different previous ICTs
access levels. That having been said, governments of
developing countries must consider numerous strategies of
mitigating this new type of digital divide that stand to
frustrate many government efforts poised to accrue ICT
opportunities and to promote greater participation to the
wellbeing of the economy by many of the citizens. The most
emphatic focal point that can breed quick successes is to
consider use of ICTs in educational settings and how ICTs
could be integrated into the curriculum. If this is going to be
the way forward then it should start by changing the way
new teachers must be trained in colleges and universities.
The skills instilled in them must be brought to the
classrooms at kindergarten level through to tertiary
institution. Only then would the society be in a position to be
equipped with essential ICTs skills that can benefit
individuals as well as the nation at large. Beyond this level,
a country could then be in a position to take stock of the
return on ICT investments. It has been argued that an all-
stakeholder consultative forum is a necessary ingredient for
the successful implementation ICT policy and national
agenda. We might be able to spend our way out of the first
digital divide but we are going to have to talk about our way
out of the second level digital divide. Without such a
dialogue, the regulations will come but they will be ill-
informed; deployments will occur but will be recklessly
optimistic and technological developments will continue but
they will ignored or ineffective [16]. By mitigating the second
divide, you are ensuring everyone to participate and
contribute for the common good of the society. Further
research must evaluate the gains that could be derived
from successful bridging of the second level digital divide.

6.0 References
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